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3D printing has an enormous range of uses, from making medical devices, figurines, molds, household objects, and more. All you need is a printer, some materials, a blueprint, and you’re ready to start creating.
Many people avoid purchasing their own 3D printer due to the high price tags. Luckily, not all 3D printers are so expensive. These are some of the best cheap 3D printers for students or beginners available right now.
Choosing Between FDM and SLA Printers
The material that you print with can drastically change the appearance of your design. FDM stands for Fused Deposition Modeling, while SLA is short for Stereolithography Apparatus.
Printers that use FDM are typically cheaper than SLA printers. FDM consists of rolls of colored filament that you insert into your machine. When you print out a design, the machine melts the filament, and continually adds layers until your design is complete. When it comes to FDM, you can choose from PLA or ABS filaments. PLA is overall safer and simpler to use than FDM, as it’s made from sugarcane and cornstarch, instead of oil-based plastic.
On the other hand, SLA printers are typically used for more precise, higher-resolution designs. Rather than printing with filament, SLA printers use a liquid resin to create designs. It melts the resin in a process known as curing by using a digital light processor (DLP) or a laser. Unfortunately, SLA printers are more limited in terms of color choices—you can typically only choose from white, gray, clear, or black.
1. Best Cheap 3D Printer Overall:
QIDI Tech X-one2 3D Printer
The QIDI Tech X-one2 3D Printer offers simplicity and ease-of-use when printing designs. This fully-assembled FDM printer uses filament with a thickness of 1.75mm. This is beneficial as the lower the thickness, the more detailed the design. In other words, it can print fairly precise objects for its price. The printing area is 5.5 x 5.5 x 5.5 inches, which limits you to printing smaller objects.
Its 3.5-inch LCD screen makes printing a lot simpler, especially if you’re a beginner. This printer also comes with its own software, QIDI Print Slicer, which allows you to visualize your designs. The QIDI Tech X-one2 can handle ABS or PLA filament as well. With low vibration during printing, it prevents any botched models too.
2. Best 3D Printer Under $500:
TEVO Tornado 3D Printer
The TEVO Tornado 3D Printer comes 95 percent assembled, making it quick to get started. It offers a larger area compared to the previously mentioned QIDI printer, standing at a much wider and taller 11.8 x 11.8 x 15.7 inches. You also have the ability to print from anywhere—the built-in SD card lets you print without tethering your computer to the machine.
Since this FDM printer comes with a sturdy hotbed covered with glass, you likely won’t run into any bed adhesion problems that can ruin your designs. It also offers a low 1.75mm filament diameter, which allows you to print detailed designs, as well as larger structures. You can choose from a variety of filament materials, as the machine allows for anything from wood, nylon, polycarbonate, and a range of others.
3. Best 3D Printer Under $1,000:
BIBO Dual Extruder 3D Printer
If you’re looking for some extra functions to go along with your 3D printer, check out the BIBO Dual Extruder 3D Printer. This FDM printer is a little pricier than some of the other options on this list, but it offers convenient features to help you print faster.
Not only does it allow for a 8.4 x 7.3 x 6.3-inch build size and 1.75mm filament, but it also comes with two extruders to print two objects at the same time. If you want to print an object that has two colors, you won’t have to change the filament when printing.
The BIBO Dual Extruder has a laser engraver that you can use with paper, leather, wood, and plastic to fill in fine details on almost any object. It also has Wi-Fi capabilities, so you can print wirelessly from your phone or computer.
4. Best Cheap 3D Printer Kit:
Comgrow Creality Ender 3
For those who want to learn even more about the 3D printing process, you should definitely invest in a DIY kit. The Comgrow Creality Ender 3 comes in several pieces that you’ll have to take the time to assemble. When you’re done, you’ll have a 3D printer with a printing area of 8.7 x 8.7 x 10 inches.
The Comgrow Creatily Ender is another FDM printer that supports a smaller filament diameter of 1.75mm. A thinner filament diameter combined with an upgraded extruder makes for a machine that will reliably print all of your designs.
5. Best Budget 3D Printer With SLA Capabilities:
ELEGOO UV Mars Photocuring LCD 3D Printer
The ELEGOO Mars UV Photocuring LCD Printer is a cheap, but dependable alternative to FDM printers. Photocuring printers are typically expensive, so you can’t go wrong with the ELEGOO’s price for the number of features it comes with. To start printing, you’ll have to upload a model to the ChiTu Box Slicing software that it comes with. The speedy software takes about one minute to slice a single 30MB STL file and lets you create hollow designs to save on resin.
The 3.5-inch built-in touchscreen comes in handy when you want to preview your design. As for the photocuring process, the ELEGOO Mars has a 2560×1440 2K HD masking LCD that produces your model with a resolution of up to 0.00185 inches, which allows for very small details.
Let’s Get Printing!
Printing on paper is way less fun than printing 3D objects. Choosing an affordable 3D printer that’s best for you comes down to how much work you’re willing to put into printing. As for choosing between SLA and FDM printers, it really depends on your own personal preference and the projects you want to create.
Once you’ve got yourself a 3D printer, you’ll want to start creating. For the best ways to get started, check out our beginner’s guide to 3D printing.